Leave it to a woman to save the summer film season. And perhaps the future of DC Comics Expanded Universe.
As exhilarating popcorn entertainment, Wonder Woman is what it needs to be, what we want it to be: action-packed, funny, light, but with touches of heartfelt emotions that come honestly through the characters, and not script by committee.
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was the best part of the bleak and soulless Batman v Superman. And with the big screen to herself it’s no surprise that she shines all the more, as the Amazon Princess leaves paradise to stop hell, a terrifying new mustard gas the Germans plan to unleash against enemy soldiers and even families in the waning days of World War I.
CULTURE SHOCK: The heavy burden of ‘Wonder Woman’
But that quest comes much later in her journey. Unlike so many other superhero origin stories, there’s plenty of fun along the way, as director Patty Jenkins resists the trend of going dark with the iconic superheroine’s big-screen debut.
Wonder Woman isn’t a tortured soul; she’s a proud warrior named Diana, the daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), Queen of the Amazons, a group of fierce women warriors in Greek mythology who live on the lush island of Themyscira hidden from men and mankind by Zeus for thousands of years.
Their isolation ends when a fighter plane crashes through their protective bubble and into the ocean. It’s Diana who rescues the drowning pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and comes to learn of the horrors taking place elsewhere in the world.
Diana blames Ares, the God of War, for the lack of peace in the world — Wonder Woman uses Greek mythology to good effect — and decides to leave the island to kill him, against the wishes of her mom.
And with Trevor to navigate her through London and later to the front lines, Diana discovers she has much to learn about men, mankind, and even herself.
Directed by Patty Jenkins. Screenplay by Allan Heinberg. A Warner Bros. release playing at Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, Bowling Green, Mall of Monroe, and Sundance Kid Drive-in. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.
Running time: 141 minutes.
Critic’s rating: ★★★★
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, and Robin Wright.
Wonder Woman is a winning mix of familiar and distinct that adheres to the conventions of superhero biographies yet, by virtue of resisting the temptation to go dark with its tone, is refreshingly different, even if it's not new.
Jenkins doesn’t reinvent the genre. Rather, she pleasantly reminds us of what these films were and should be: enjoyable escapism untethered from the burdens that come with future plans.
Wonder Woman stands alone — even with the title character’s major role in this fall’s Justice League film and, undoubtedly other DC Comics films. It’s a complete film that introduces Wonder Woman and expands her own mythology; if nothing else, the film impressively showcases the awesome abilities and super-powers of the first major female hero. The slow-motion battles are overused, as is the case with almost every action film — gone is the Hollywood era of less is more — but the delectation in her butt-kicking skills and methods is its own reward. It’s amazing how easily her lasso of truth can be used as an effective weapon.
Playing a handsome and earnest spy, Pine is a nice anchor for Gadot, and the actors spark onscreen, though Jenkins is wise to keep their mutual attraction out of sight, save for one respectful moment of love’s consummation. Wonder Woman is a movie for kids, after all.
And as an early feminist icon, Wonder Woman is a welcome change of pace in what is a mostly male-dominated superhero circuit.
Wonder Woman’s only flaw, albeit minor, is the ho-hum villainy of the German General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) and his disfigured mad scientist Dr. Maru (Elena Anaya) with their plans to extend the war on the eve of an armistice between all sides. These Germans are not ferocious or memorable — but at least they’re not Nazis.
After her long struggle to the big screen, Wonder Woman makes the most of her first solo effort.
Given DC Comic’s rough start in its own cinematic universe with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, that's welcome relief and hopefully a sign of what’s to come.
Contact Kirk Baird at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.
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